How PSG and Monaco Can Help the French National Team and Their Identity Crises
The trials and tribulations of the national team is understandably the hot topic in French football at the moment, following a mixed international week for Les Bleus.
Didier Deschamps' men have been far from impressive in their last two 2014 World Cup qualifiers, in which they were held to a 0-0 draw by Georgia and were forced to come from behind to beat Belarus 4-2.
Despite the thrilling nature of their win in Belarus on Tuesday, these are not exciting times for France, who look set to face a playoff in order to seal their place at the finals in Brazil next year.
The problem, from an outsider's perspective, appears to be that Deschamps does not have a settled squad—seemingly doubting who he can rely on for each match—thus changes to the starting XI have been frequent.
Indeed, former PSG defender Mamadou Sakho looked to have been on his way to cementing his place in the France defense when he won his 14th cap for his country against Brazil in June, but he has not played since, with Deschamps citing a lack of regular football.
Sakho has now left the Parc des Princes to join Liverpool after falling down the pecking order at PSG, with Eric Abidal and Laurent Koscielny anchoring the center of defense against Belarus.
The issue of a lack of French players at PSG has damaged both the national team and their identity as a French club.
Only Blaise Matuidi, who played the full game against Belarus, and Christophe Jallet are the only real home-grown players who can call themselves mainstays in the first team, while Lucas Digne—signed from Lille in the transfer window—has yet to feature.
In addition, experienced midfielder Clement Chantome has gone out on loan, and Mathieu Bodmer has joined Nice.
Neither of those departures are particularly surprising, though, especially given the level of competition in midfield at PSG.
There are positive signs, however, with promising midfielder Adrien Rabiot and young attacker Hervin Ongenda both getting game time under Laurent Blanc.
Blanc—a former national coach himself—should understand more than anyone how important regular football is to national stars of both the present and future, but the fact remains that the arrival of marquee foreign names, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, has reduced PSG's presence in the national team.
A similar problem potentially faces Monaco. Their return to Ligue 1 has been superb thus far, with foreign acquisitions such as Radamel Falcao and Lucas Ocampos performing brilliantly in the first few games.
Still, the principality club have also brought a number of French players, some established and some still emerging.
The likes of Jeremy Toulalan and Abidal will always be an option for Deschamps because of their experience and quality, but it is important that Ranieri does not neglect Geoffrey Kondogbia—who has broken into the national team after an excellent spell with Sevilla—and Anthony Martial, the French Under-21 striker signed from Lyon, in favor of foreign talent.
Of course, PSG and Monaco do not have a duty of care to the national team, and they can choose to build their squads in whatever fashion they wish.
Additionally, French players have proved adept at establishing themselves in foreign sides, Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba—a goalscorer against Belarus—being just one of many examples.
Sakho and Joshua Guilavogui, who left Saint-Etienne for Atletico Madrid last month, will hope to tread the same path, while many of the national squad, such as Dimitri Payet, Mathieu Valbuena and Clement Grenier, can be sure of regular domestic football at home for Marsielle and Lyon, respectively.
However, it is those French players at PSG and Monaco, whose national futures are being risked with every foreign purchase made by the two clubs.
Matuidi has no need to worry as he continues to improve, and Digne should eventually oust Maxwell for the left-back spot at PSG.
Still, it is the likes of Rabiot, Kondogbia and Martial who will be eager to cement themselves in their respective first teams and enter the thoughts of Deschamps for 2014 and beyond.
PSG and Monaco may not have a duty of care to the national team, but a commitment to developing home-grown players would be beneficial in helping them silence those critics who accuse them of a lack of French identity.
More French players among the two financial powerhouses would also aid Deschamps' cause, handing the already somewhat maligned manager a widened and reliable group of players to pick from as he attempts to reinvigorate an ailing former giant of the international game.
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